Frank had always preferred the cold.

Hot, heavy and humid air never ceased to remind him of the desert and the horrors he'd experienced there. He hated summers because he slept fitfully and in short spurts borne by exhaustion. During the winter, he often got a solid amount of sleep during the mornings and into the early afternoon while reserving the comfort and ease of the darkness and cold to conduct his business.

Even though he preferred the cold, it did nothing to make him immune to it. He could layer fancy fabric and expensive gear all he wanted but eventually his toes would go numb and his fingers would stiffen and then all of a sudden he was mostly chilled. Tonight was no exception, although he'd found an extremely advantageous spot that sheltered him from the wind and the prying eyes of people below. The fire escape on the top floor of the building across from the rear of Karen Page's new building disappeared into brick wall and had a solid floor. It hid in the shadow of the building, and Frank was well acquainted with shadows. To his surprise, it also afforded a perfect view into the living room and bedroom windows of Karen's apartment. He could see the front door through her living room and although her windows seemed to be equipped with both gauzy curtains and a solid white draw they seemed to not be tightly closed very often. Karen constantly had light soaking into her apartment.

He'd finished his tall thermos of coffee and was growing bored of both monitoring her empty apartment for the fourth time this week and he was suspicious his scanner wasn't working because there was a distinct lack of police activity and sirens. There was a possibility that people were just staying inside and weren't out to screw over their fellow man, but Frank doubted it. Crime never slept.

A light suddenly flickering on caught his attention and his monocular was attached to his aim eye immediately. It focused as Karen was taking off her coat and he quickly drew his brows together as he spied Matt Murdock, blind lawyer extraordinaire. They seemed to be slightly drunk, grinning widely and struggling out of jackets. The door shut and Karen draped her rich green coat over the back of her new couch. Most of her apartment was new, but he'd seen some unscathed items make it from her old place. Murdock's coat remained on and Frank's mouth twitched out a smirk as he watched Karen motion towards the kitchen, gesturing as Matt shook his head and hovered towards the door.

Frank knew he wouldn't stay. He knew Murdock would play coy as soon as Karen had decided to forgive him for being Daredevil. Frank figured out the blind lawyer was a vigilante sitting in court, having a private conversation in code in front of the entire city. Shortly after Christmas and Red's raid on the Hand, the business shut down. Nelson was working in a shiny skyscraper and ordering asian women at night, Murdock was in and out of his apartment and impossible to pin down for a blind guy and Karen had taken to drinking heavily and talking to people she shouldn't about things she can't know. Frank watched over Karen, partially to keep tabs on Daredevil and partially for reasons he explained to himself as owing her. Karen Page, savior and monster magnet.

Frank did not know Matt Murdock but he was well associated with Daredevil. Red had an uncanny knack for running away from everything resembling a life while pretending to try to build one for himself. Frank had decided Red was a fool. He had a chance to have everything that Frank wanted and he ran from it like it was scarier than beating people with his fists.

They were obviously getting more heated now, Karen was using her hands erratically and often kept her right arm folded over her stomach and her left elbow balanced on her right hand. Her left hand would be up, pressed against her mouth. Her back was to him but he knew her mannerisms.

Murdock said something and they both stilled. Frank's breathing slowed and he strained to hear despite the distance.

Karen's back straightened and she approached Murdock. Her elbows were moving, indicating she was moving her hands and Frank's throat constricted as suddenly her blouse seemed to slacken and slip down her back. Murdock was saying something, backing away slowly as she advanced. Her hands twisted back and unclasped the black band around her ribcage and Frank sat back and put the monocular on his lap, strangely unsettled. His scanner was flickering with words and he barely registered the wail of a siren some blocks away as his mind warred with itself – this was an invasion of privacy. It wasn't a view her neighbors didn't have, he reasoned. He shouldn't be looking because he respected her and she deserved to have that. Frank groaned aloud slightly, letting the back of his head knock against the brick.

A smaller, oilier voice was inching its way through his mind. This voice reminded him how long it had been since he'd admired a woman. An attractive woman. A woman he found attractive that also looked at him with a shimmer of depth and mystery to her thoughts. Women only looked at men like that when they thought about them with their eyes closed, Frank knew this much. He knew he'd never be first choice, as he'd never want to be. He couldn't be a shadow of the type of man that Karen deserved but it didn't stop him from being a shadow of a man that craved her.

Frank raised the monocular, focusing immediately on his target. Karen was pressed against Matt, their jaws flexing as they fused at mouth. His larger hands encompassed her breast, and the other hand was tangled in her hair. She appeared to be the aggressor, plundering his mouth and pressing her body against his. Frank knew that Red could easily overpower her, so he was merely holding back and letting her but if one weren't in the know she would seem almost abusive. One of her hands seemed to grab his short hair and yank it. He seemed to fight her, saying something and causing her to cover his words with her mouth and give his hair another commanding jerk he submitted to. The back of Frank's scalp tingled with jealousy and he shifted as desire lit in his groin. She was a vision of pale skin down to her waist and Frank's eye devoured it, his finger absently ticking the knob on the zoom to it's fullest. It didn't get much closer, but he could see clearly when her wrists were claimed and controlled and Murdock separated from her onslaught. He seemed to be admonishing her and she immediately stood straight and took a few steps back. He seemed to reply to words Frank didn't see and then she turned to the window, one hand combing back her hair and the other resting on her hip in a sign of distress.

The distress would bother Frank if he wasn't suddenly beholden her breasts; time seemed to slow eerily for him like sand going from one end of a time turner. They were perfect, sitting perkily on her chest and boasting round, peony pink nipples. They perfectly complimented her milky skin and the smattering of brown moles over her stomach and rib cage. She was lithe and lean, a runners clean build with slender shoulders. Frank couldn't even bring himself to compare her to the wicked curvaciousness of Maria's Cuban body. The two were worlds apart and equally breathtaking.

Frank was a man who could appreciate beauty, no matter how complex or how simple. He treasured it, was awed by it and sought to destroy all that threatened it. Karen stopped and picked up her bra, seeming to twist it around herself and secure it with ease. Red was talking to her, reasoning with her and she was shaking her head and angrily replying without turning around. Frank was both disappointed and bemused, as Red seemed to have stepped in it and bungled his chances at civil conversation.

Suddenly, Frank's scanner started typing and flashed a short light. Frank checked it, frowned and looked across at the apartment. The police were responding to a call of a body on the steps of the court house, which was always a political move and Frank needed to get a handle on what was currently the murderous trend of the city. Red should really be on his own way there, get his feet on the ground. Frank fixed the monocular and spied Karen had rounded on him and they were both talking very angrily at each other. Karen was pointing erratically above her, seemingly into the sky. Murdock had his hand out, palm out in an instinctive situational command. Frank rolled his eyes at the idiot's attempt to quell what was very definitely a raging woman from the way she had slightly bent over and was snapping one arm around.

Frank sighed and deflty packed his mini setup into his duffel and slung it over his back. He gently rose to a standing position and could clearly see the form of Karen disappearing around the wall into the kitchen. He watched Murdock lean against the wall, shirt still gaping open. He repeated Frank's earlier action and dropped his skull against plaster a few times.

"Ah, never say I never did nothing for you," Frank said loudly. He saw Red's head come off the wall, face snapping towards the window like a dog hearing the mailman. Frank placed one booted foot on the fire escape rail and grabbed the ledge of the roof. With a grunt and use of his gunned arm, he swung up and stood on the rooftop, looking at the alleyway below. He could see a small Murdock standing in Karen's living room. He turned and walked confidently across the roof, chuckling to himself as he approached the street of the next block. He raised his arm and fired twice in the air, letting the shots ring out loudly over the streets.

Frank holstered and breathed in the night air, ears ringing like a bell. He knew Murdock would be sprinting along any moment and he should probably get to the courthouse first. Idly, his mind went to Karen and how upset she'd be in her apartment, alone with Murdock running after gunshots. He found he was more interested in creating distance between the two. Red shouldn't be with her either if he's not willing to be the man she deserves. Karen was a fierce flame, but she was one match in the face of the wind of Hell's Kitchen. Frank would be the hand that braces that flame.

This is the bargain he works out with himself. Close to the flame, but not enough to be burned by it or snuff it out. After all, Frank Castle is a fan of the cold.




yes, i will be continuing. i'm a slut for reviews still.